‘The earlier you start, the easier it is’

Members of the Children’s Chorus rehearse Thursday evening at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts.

Laramie is home to collegiate soloists, choirs, ensembles and symphonies — as well as a thriving local music scene — but the city is even more musical now thanks to a newly formed Children’s Chorus.

When Tiger Robison — University of Wyoming assistant professor of music education — started on campus during the fall semester, he said he felt Laramie should have a children’s choir, as Cheyenne and Casper do already.

With the help of his wife and fellow music educator Laura — as well as other educators and educators-in-training — the Children’s Chorus is now a reality, steadily growing as its participants, grades 2-5, prepare for their first performance in May.

“The musical benefits of starting early are huge,” Robison said. “Learning how to use your voice, which is your lifelong instrument, that is just huge in my view — and in most music teachers’ view. Everyone should be able to sing to themselves, or sing in a place of worship, or sing a lullaby to their children when they have kids.”

In addition to giving children across Laramie the opportunity to sing together, the chorus allows Robison to stay active in the field of elementary music education, even as he passes on his knowledge to UW students seeking to become music teachers.

“It gives me a chance to keep working with children,” he said. “As a professor, if I’m going to be telling people how to teach, I want to be actually teaching myself and have undergraduates see me doing that, see me working through things.”

These undergraduates are also given the opportunity to work with children in the chorus.

“The third overarching goal is to get our music education undergraduates experience with real-life kids,” Robison said. “It was definitely the most valuable thing when I was coming up as a music teacher, so I want to kind of pass that along … It seems to be a win-win-win situation.”

Heidi Henderson, a UW freshman pursuing music education, is one of the undergraduates helping Robison.

“It’s always good to see what other teachers do in the classroom and observe what works and doesn’t work so when you become a teacher, you can focus on things that work and things that don’t work in the classroom,” she said. “I’m really loving it so far and getting a lot of great ideas for the future when I will eventually get to teach.”

By including freshmen, the chorus allows UW students to gauge their interest in music education early in their college careers, Henderson said.

“A lot of people just think that being a music teacher just sounds like super fun and super cool and you get to work with kids,” she said. “But it’s a bigger responsibility than most people think, and so it’s cool to get in on it early on, rather than having to wait until we’re juniors or seniors.”

Robison said the chorus has been received better than he was originally expecting.

“Right now, there’s 35 children, and it’s growing every day,” he said. “I’ll probably have to stop taking people in the middle of March or so, but more people keep joining every day as word gets out.”

The small fee charged to a child’s parents supports the chorus itself, with any excess revenue going toward the Cowboys in the Classroom scholarship fund for music education majors.

The largest benefit, however, is for the children themselves, who are practicing teamwork while developing their voices, Robison said.

“Really, the earlier you start it, the easier it is to hold on to that for the rest of your life,” he said. “Everybody is a little bit vulnerable when they’re singing. If you’re a little bit vulnerable and working hard together toward a common goal with adults that you trust … that’s just beneficial for every aspect of a child’s life — self esteem, work ethic, overall sensitivity.”

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